How Hajj volunteers help pilgrims realize their lifelong dream

1 / 7
A young scout helps a pilgrim at King Abdul Aziz International Airport in Jeddah. (Twitter)
2 / 7
Young Saudi scouts go familiarize themselves with their designated work area in Makkah. (SPA)
3 / 7
Volunteer first aiders assist an aging pilgrim in Makkah. (SPA)
4 / 7
A volunteer serves water to an infirm pilgrim. (SPA)
5 / 7
A Saudi volunteer serves pilgrims with tea. (SPA)
6 / 7
Boy Scouts take a sick pilgrim to a field hospital. (SPA)
7 / 7
A scout gives directions to a pilgrim. (SPA)
Updated 16 August 2018

How Hajj volunteers help pilgrims realize their lifelong dream

  • Volunteers are being encouraged to join the program Kun Awnan, or “Be Helpful,” to serve pilgrims
  • The program assigns volunteers to different locations based on their skills, experience and, in some cases, their place of residence

JEDDAH: Every year, Saudis — many of them young people — gather from all over the Kingdom to help their Muslim brothers and sisters fulfill their lifetime dream of visiting Makkah to perform Hajj, the fifth pillar of Islam.

With the support and the supervision of the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah, volunteers participate in all different kind of activities to ensure pilgrims’ comfort, receiving them with hospitality and generosity at the country’s ports.

All governmental and private bodies, including Scouts, join self-motivated volunteers to provide services such as traffic control, health care, guidance and support to various public sector agencies participating in the massive pilgrimage operation.

In 2017, the ministry approved the launch of the volunteering program Kun Awnan, or “Be Helpful,” to serve pilgrims. 

“This program is in line with the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 to rally one million volunteers per year,” Hani Abu Alsaud, the program’s CEO, told Arab News.

Through this program, the ministry aims to promote a culture of volunteering, while providing young people with a chance to use their expertise and skills to assist pilgrims while doing everything they can to make the experience of God’s guests smoother and more secure.

The program assigns volunteers to different locations based on their skills, experience and, in some cases, their place of residence. 

Volunteering points or camps include the holy mosques of both Makkah and Madinah, King Abdulaziz International Airport in Jeddah, Prince Mohammad Bin Abdulaziz International Airport in Madinah and the holy sites in Makkah.

“Last year, we received more than 3,000 volunteering applications through our newly launched website and we could accept only 12 percent of the total applicants,” Abu Alsaud said.

“Most of our volunteers are college and university students from all over the country ... (who) come to participate in the pride of serving God’s guests, and every one of them will receive a certificate of participation,” he said.

Kun Awnan activities include receiving pilgrims at airports, providing translations in a wide range of languages, doing all possible to make the Hajj experience go smoothly, as well as guiding activities and ceremonies after the season is over.

Scout camp activities were also launched to serve pilgrims during this year’s Hajj season under the Saudi Arabian Scouts Association. 

More than 4,500 Saudi Scouts and Guides were deployed in the public service camps for pilgrims in Makkah and its holy sites to assist pilgrims in cooperation with the ministry.

Zaiad Qadeer, director of the scout activities at the department of education in Makkah, said: “Scouts come from several cities across Saudi Arabia and are trained to speak multiple languages. This comes as a big help for pilgrims who arrive from all over the world. 

“Our main role would be assisting pilgrims who might lose their way around the holy sites in Makkah during the Hajj performance.”

As part of their efforts to provide the best possible services, six scout camps have been established in Makkah and its holy sites. 

“Scouts have been active members of the volunteering activities for years, deployed in almost all locations and working side by side with other teams and agencies to provide assistance to pilgrims and receive them with hospitality and generosity,” Qadeer explained. 

“We also help the Ministry of Health to treat sick pilgrims, complementing a number of voluntary humanitarian services for pilgrims.”

The General Directorate of Civil Defense plays a major role in volunteer work in the Kingdom. 

Operations General Hamoud bin Suleiman Al-Faraj told local media that the civil defense hoped to increase volunteer work under its umbrella, and had witnessed a large increase in the number of volunteers participating in the Hajj within a year — 1,485 volunteers this year compared with 816 volunteers in 2017.

Arab coalition working to protect region’s security, says spokesman

Coalition spokesman Col. Turki Al-Maliki at a press briefing. (SPA file photo)
Updated 29 min 1 sec ago

Arab coalition working to protect region’s security, says spokesman

  • Houthis want to disturb peace, says coalition spokesman
  • Stockholm peace agreement under strain

RIYADH: The Arab coalition supporting the internationally recognized Yemeni government is committed to protecting regional and global security, a spokesman said Monday.

Coalition spokesman Col. Turki Al-Maliki was asked at a press briefing about Houthi militias threatening to target the capitals of Saudi Arabia and the UAE.

“This is their way to disturb peace,” Al-Maliki replied. “Previously the Houthis targeted Riyadh with a ballistic missile, violating all international laws by attacking a city that has more than 8 million civilians. We take all precautions to protect civilians and vital areas. The coalition works to protect regional and international security.”

Al-Maliki said Houthis had targeted Saudi border towns several times, the most recent incident taking place in Abha last Friday.

But the Saudi Royal Air Defense Force had shot down a drone that was targeting civilians, he added.

He said four Saudi nationals and an Indian expatriate were injured in the attack because of falling debris.

The drone wreckage showed the characteristics and specifications of Iranian manufacturing, he said, which proved Iran was continuing to smuggle arms to the militias.

He warned the Houthis to refrain from targeting civilians because the coalition, in line with international humanitarian law, had every right to counter such threats.

He said the coalition was making efforts to neutralize ballistic missiles and dismantle their capabilities, as the coalition’s joint command would not allow the militia to possess weapons that threatened civilian lives and peace.

Al-Maliki reiterated that the Houthis were targeting Yemeni civilians and continued to violate international laws. 

He also urged Yemenis to try their best to prevent children from being captured by Houthis, who were using them as human shields and child soldiers.

His comments came as the UN tried to salvage a peace deal that was seen as crucial for ending the country’s four-year war.

The Stockholm Agreement was signed by the Yemeni government and Houthi representatives last December.

The main points of the agreement were a prisoner exchange, steps toward a cease-fire in the city of Taiz, and a cease-fire agreement in the city of Hodeidah and its port, as well as ports in Salif and Ras Issa.

Militants triggered the conflict when they seized the capital Sanaa in 2014 and attempted to occupy large parts of the country. An Arab coalition intervened in support of the internationally recognized government in March 2015.

The World Health Organization estimates that nearly 10,000 people have been killed in Yemen since 2015.

Earlier this month US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that President Donald Trump’s administration opposed curbs on American assistance to the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen.

“The way to alleviate the Yemeni people’s suffering isn’t to prolong the conflict by handicapping our partners in the fight, but by giving the Saudi-led coalition the support needed to defeat the Iranian-backed rebels and ensure a just peace,” Pompeo said at a news conference in Washington.